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The Ghost And Ms. Kyle (the Casa Familiar Remix)

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The Waynes had built Gotham.

In the Gilded Age, they'd been one of the richest families in America. They'd owned the city in a very literal sense, and like the others of their type, they'd given generously to charity. Even 80 years after the last one died, their name was still over everything: Wayne Tower, Wayne Community College (and High School, Middle School, and Elementary School), Wayne Hospital, Wayne Boulevard.

Wayne Enterprises was a thing of the past, though; bought and sold and gone public and merged until only a historian could tell you where all the pieces of it had gone. The name was only a subsidiary holding company, these days.

Well. And the house, of course.

Selina sat in her car outside the gates (wrought iron, with a giant W in the middle) and waited for the Wayne Estate's agent and Selina's home inspector to show up.

The agent was first, and punched the code into the gate. It swung obediently open with the sound of well-oiled metal, and Selina noted that it was in good repair despite the overgrown plantings surrounding it. (Though, given that the mansion was said to be haunted, a horrible screech would have been more appropriate.)

They drove up the driveway to the sweeping porch. The place was smaller than she'd expected, Selina noted absently; not exactly Downton Abbey. Still, more than big enough for her purposes.

While they waited, she wandered around the lawn. It had been mowed recently, but the plantings were all overgrown. It would take a crew of groundskeepers to keep tidy. She'd have to ask Pam what to do about the grounds.

One of the side yards was in better order, she noted, and asked the agent about it.

"The Gotham Master Gardeners maintain that portion of the grounds as a showpiece," the agent said. "They have their meetings in the music room once a month, and several events in that garden during the warmer months. If you'd like to continue the relationship, I'm sure they'd be delighted."

"I'm sure something could be arranged," Selina said.

"This wing of the house was designed for entertaining," the agent said. "The ballroom takes up most of it, but there is a music room, restrooms, and a small movie theater. It's the only wing of the house that's been in use recently; it's where the charities hold their events."

Selina nodded. "Those would be the charities with permanent right of use for fundraising purposes written into the deed?"

"Yes," The agent said. "If you'd like to bring in other events, that's fine, of course, but you will be required to let the various Wayne charities use the space at least twice a year each."

"Yes, I know," Selina said. There were a number of odd specifications like that in the deed, which was one of the reasons the house had sat empty for so long. (The other, of course, was the ghost.) "But I can rent out the space for weddings and other events on a for-profit basis, yes?" She and her lawyer had both been all through the paperwork, but it was always good to double-check. Besides paying for the upkeep on the place, using it as an event center would be an excellent way to launder money.

"Oh yes." The agent smiled. "But you can't turn the main block of the house into a hotel or B&B or anything like that, and you can't turn it into office space. The family wing must remain a family home."

"Yes, I know," Selina said. And if getting around those clauses in the deed—or selling it to a developer to be torn down—were simple, she had no doubt the house would have been turned into something else long ago. Or, at least, sold now for a much higher price than Selina could afford.

The home inspector drove up then, and apologized for running behind as he climbed out of his car. Selina waved this off; he wasn't that late, and traffic in Gotham could be murder.

"Well, let's see what we find," the inspector said. "I'm figuring there'll be a lot, if the place hasn't been lived in for forty years."

"The house has been very well maintained, and the last resident redid all the plumbing and electrical work in the early 70s," the agent said. "The HVAC and roof are both new within the last ten years."

Probably relics of the last several attempts to sell the place, Selina thought. "So, can your equipment tell if the place is really haunted?" she asked brightly.

The inspector snorted. "No. And anyway, most supposed 'hauntings' are caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, the normal noises and oddities of an old house, or raccoons in the attic."

"Right," Selina said.

"Regardless, knowing about the ghost, if you buy the house you cannot renege on the contract or sue the Wayne Trust because the house is haunted," the agent said. "It is a known hazard of the house, which you accept as the new owner."

"I know," Selina said. The lawsuit over the last sale that had fallen through had been entertaining; the buyers had tried to claim that nobody had told them about the ghost. Despite having to sign a waiver as part of the contract.

They spent an informative several hours making their way methodically through the house, from the cellars to the attics. While there were assorted minor issues, the foundation was in good shape, there was no mold or water damage or signs of vermin, and the systems the agent said had been upgraded or replaced were all in decent shape.

Selena took notes the entire time, both of potential problems and suggested remedies, and went off feeling satisfied.


"So, you're gonna be rattling around in that old mausoleum pretty soon, huh," Harley said over takeout the next night.

"I wouldn't call it a mausoleum," Selina said. "It's big, but the residential quarters—the family wing—isn't all that big, considering. And it's got character! I want to live there for a bit before I make any changes, so I know what needs to get modernized and what can stay."

"If you say so," Harley said with a shrug.

"Oh! Before I forget, I'd like to invite Pam to consult with me on what to do with the grounds," Selina said. "There's one area the Master Gardeners look after, but the rest—it's just so big. Even after they sold off most of the park for new development. I want something much lower maintenance."

"Oooh, Pam'll love that," Harley said. "Especially if you give her free reign to re-wild the place."

"As long as it's low-maintenance, I don't care," Selina said. "Well. Except for the front lawn and the side with the event spaces, that has to be conventionally pretty enough that people will want to rent it out."

"I'll tell her to give you a call," Harley said.

"How's she doing?" Selina asked. Pam could be a touchy subject; when she got obsessed with the latest climate injustice, she either became depressed or went out and committed crime. Both were hard on Harley, though in different ways. But if Pam were currently having issues, Harley wouldn't have been as enthusiastic about giving her a new project, so she was probably safe to ask about.

Harley brightened and started burbling on about Pam's lab and the antics of her grad students.


It took a few weeks to fix the things Selina needed to have done before she could move in, but all in all it wasn't bad. The painters were efficient about stripping the lead paint and redoing it, and so was the crew who put insulation in the attic. That part went over-budget because it was a finished attic, used for storage, and so they couldn't just blow in loose-fill insulation, they had to do it the old-fashioned way. (Selina couldn't quite afford to insulate the walls yet, even just in the family wing, but that would come in time.)

So, as the leaves started turning brown and falling from the trees, Selina gave up the lease on her apartment and moved into Wayne Manor.


Selina kept an eye out for any trace of the ghost as she moved in.

"So, what all is getting packed away?" the head of the moving crew asked.

"Everything on this floor of this wing is going into storage, except for this room," Selina said. They were standing in the larger of the two bedrooms in the master suite.

The guy eyed the bed, which was only a queen size. "The stairs up to the attic are kind of narrow," he said. "Some of the bigger pieces might not fit."

Selina shrugged. "If you need to, you can put the larger pieces in the basement, instead."

With a nod, the guy began giving orders to his crew. Selina watched carefully as they packed knickknacks into boxes and started carting off the furniture, but there was not so much as a twitching curtain to mark any supernatural interest in the process. Though perhaps the ghost was used to this part; she was not the first person to come in and replace the Manor's furniture with her own. They'd all been driven out, and the Manor's furniture put back in its place. Selina intended to stay.

She wished she could get her cats out, see what they thought. But they would probably be too freaked out by the new place and all the activity to notice anything strange.

Holly showed up about an hour into the process. "You know," she said, studying the elaborate molding on the ceiling, "when we were getting ourselves off the streets and out from under Stan's thumb, and we were fantasizing about what we'd do when we'd made it, I thought you were kidding about living in a mansion."

"Only part of a mansion," Selina said. "The rest is getting rented out for business purposes." That game—what kind of life would you live if you could do anything—had meant a lot to the two of them. It had entertained them when they had no TV or internet. It had given them hope, goals, something to keep them from taking the easy way out and remaining trapped in the lives they wanted so desperately to leave. For Selina, imagining her future mansion had helped her ignore the mold and decay of the squalid apartment that had been all they could afford at the time. And now, it was real. They'd been insanely lucky to get this far, and Selina wasn't going to let this opportunity slip through her fingers.

"Oh, sure, only part of a mansion, you're right, that's such a big difference," Holly said. "Still, it does give me hope that eventually I'll be able to travel the world."

"Anything's possible," Selina said, "and you know I'll help out if I can."

"You won't be able to help out," Holly said. "All your money is going to go to repairs from the damage your foster kids are going to do to this place. You do realize you're nuts for bringing troubled kids into this place, right?"

"Yup," Selina said. "But I know what I'm getting into, and I'm not looking to keep this place museum-quality. I don't want to live here alone—"

"—with the ghost—" Holly butted in.

"—and I can't think of anything better to do with what I've earned than to help out kids in the same position we were in," Selina said. 'Earned' was a very loose way of describing how Selina had made her money. And was continuing to make it. But she didn't steal from anyone who couldn't afford it. Considering the crime and tax avoidance of Gotham's wealthy, taking their money and using it to raise foster kids was practically a public service.

"It's your house, I guess," Holly said.

"It is," Selina said. "Want to help me unpack my things in my new room?"

With Holly's help, it didn't take that long to get her bedroom in order, and then Holly had to head back into the city for work. By that point, the movers had finished removing the antiques and were setting up her furniture in the rooms she was using: two bedrooms and the sitting/dining room in this wing.

And still no sign of the ghost.

Once the movers were gone, Selina set out cat food and water in the dining room, and got Otto and Isis out of their cat carriers. It was a big change for them, and they needed reassurance which Selina was happy to provide. Isis spent a long time hiding in the cave portion of the big cat tree, but Otto started exploring fairly quickly. Neither of them seemed to notice anything weirder than being in a new (and much larger) space.

That night, both of them slept in bed with her … and Otto didn't even wake her up demanding to be fed, which Selina appreciated.

She spent the next morning wandering around, touching things, moving them around at random to see what they looked like in other places, taking things out of boxes and putting them wherever they seemed to fit. Isis and Otto followed her around from room to room. She'd been through the whole house, top to bottom, of course, but it was different with just herself and the cats.

The manor was in the shape of a U, two stories tall. There was a grand entrance in the middle block, with several parlors, a library, a study, and a formal dining room that really did look like something out of a costume drama. All that center block had two-story-high ceilings, and even with insulation the heating bill would probably cost an arm and a leg. An ornate screen with double doors at one end marked the transition to the family wing.

The family wing had ceilings only slightly taller than normal. There were a ton of bedrooms—the master suite was on the first floor, as were three other bedrooms, a sitting room, and a smaller dining room, but there was a whole second floor of bedrooms only slightly plainer than the ones on the main floor. You really could run an excellent B&B or small hotel in this place; you wouldn't even have to change much. But Selina had no interest in sharing her home with strangers.

She wondered how long it would take for the ghost to show up, as she rearranged the knickknacks on the mantle in one of the bedrooms upstairs that still had the Wayne furniture. Selina was getting a bit restless; she'd expected the ghost to show up by now.

There was no point in exploring the public wing, which regularly hosted events and seldom had a ghost sighting, so Selina headed down to the daylight basement where the kitchens and servants' quarters were.

For a basement, it was fairly light; the walls were all white, and there were large windows along the outside walls, reaching from ground level to the ceiling. The kitchen was quaint and some of the appliances needed updating, but it neat and well-laid-out. Many of the rooms were empty, or designed for purposes she couldn't guess at, but there was one very nice (if small) midcentury apartment.

Selina walked into it, feeling like a voyeur in someone else's home. Brown shag carpet, probably from the 60s. Simpler furniture than upstairs, but in good condition. She opened the curtains and let sunlight stream in, then turned to take in the rest of the apartment. The bedroom door was open, but that wasn't what interested her.

There was a bookcase filled with books, old and yellowing but still far newer than the ones in the library. Detective novels mostly, from the 40s through the 60s. Not quite her thing, but that wasn't the point.

She grabbed the book with the brightest cover and turned to leave.

The door slammed shut just as she reached it. That could have been the wind, but that wouldn't explain the lock clicking on as she watched it. Nor the curtains closing behind her.

Selina smiled. That got him. "Alfred?" she said. "Mr. Pennyworth?"

Alfred's GONE, came a whispered howl from behind her, and she turned—there was nobody there, or at least, nobody she could see. Gone, gone, gone—long gone. The voice sent shivers up her spine, and she could hear wind howling down the hall outside the door.

Good thing she'd chosen to do this on a bright, sunny day; the curtains were heavy but they couldn't keep all the sun out. And this was no worse than she'd expected, from the stories of the previous potential owners. "Bruce, then," she said. "I'm Selina. Nice to meet you."

PUT IT BACK and GO AWAY.

"Is it one of your favorites, then, Bruce?" Selena asked, putting it back on the shelf in its place.

It's ALFRED'S.

"Do you miss Alfred?" Selena asked, curious. The windows rattled, and so did the furniture, but the bookcase stayed still. An eerie wailing came from down the hall outside, and the air felt somehow denser around her. There was pain and emotion, obviously, but what kind she wasn't sure. Maybe the ghost grieved the death of his faithful companion; or maybe the conspiracy theories around Bruce Wayne's mysterious death were right, and the butler did do it. And then spent the last thirty years of his life in the house haunted by the man he'd murdered. Now was … probably not the time to ask. "I'm sorry," she said, sympathetically. That was neutral enough to fit either way.

Go AWAY. There was an odd sound, almost roaring, quite impressive considering he didn't have a throat to roar with. The shadows seemed to lengthen around her, and deepen, although light was still seeping in from behind the curtains.

Selina squinted. Was that—it was! Apparently, Bruce Wayne liked urban legends. There was the faintest hint of bat ears and a cape in the pool of darkness beside the door. "Are you a Batman fan, then?" she asked.

What? That got him; the atmospherics died down.

"You know, Batman," Selina said. "The urban legend about a caped crusader stalking the night and beating up criminals and slum lords while dressed as a bat. I know that one's been around since the 30s. You seem to be wearing a bat suit, so are you a fan?"

Not exactly. There was a faint air of embarrassment around him, and the cape and ears faded into a generically handsome white man in a suit.

Aha, progress! Selina smiled. "It's nice to meet you, Bruce; I'm Selina. We're going to be roommates, so I wanted to get to know you and hear what you need so we can negotiate the house rules."

Roommates? The ghost frowned.

"Yes, roommates. People who are not related who live in the same house. Having ground rules that everyone can live with is key to success."

GO AWAY! The man in a suit dissolved back into the Batman and the room seemed to darken as he came towards her. Leave!

Selina stood her ground and raised an eyebrow. "That's not going to happen. This is my home now, too; I'm perfectly willing to share, but I'm not going to leave. You're going to have to get used to me." She hesitated. Should she bring up how he'd shared a house with Pennyworth all those years? If they'd been close, it might help; if Pennyworth had killed him, it would not help. "Aren't you lonely?" she asked instead.

Lonely? The ghost cocked his head to the side.

"Yes, lonely," Selina said. "You've been alone for a long time. Wouldn't you like some company?"

I— Bruce (and he was back to Bruce, not the Bat, again) didn't seem to know what to say.

"I don't want to hurt you, by accident or on purpose," Selina said. "I hope you return the same courtesy."

I don't want to hurt you, Bruce said.

"Good!" Selina said brightly. That was a relief, although not really a surprise; nobody had ever been hurt by the ghost, to her knowledge. "We have a common ground to start with. I'm not leaving, and neither of us want to hurt the other. When you figure out what you want from me—besides leaving, which is not going to happen—we can figure out what our—" she almost said 'lives'—"time together will look like."

What do you want? Bruce asked. Besides to live here. He was growing more substantial, the longer the conversation went on; now his features were plainly visible, and his voice was clear and precise.

"I want family," Selina said. "I have my cats, but I would also like kids. I'm going to be a foster mom—as soon as Social Services clears me, I will be taking in kids who don't have a safe family to live with."

An orphanage?

Had they had orphanages in the 40s, still? Selina would have to check, but she didn't think so. "No, there are no orphanages any longer; it's better to place kids with families. And some of the kids still have parents, just not parents who can take care of them for whatever reason."

And you want to care for them here? Bruce looked off to the side. Alfred said there might be a family here, after he died. His accent sounded like Cary Grant or another one of those old-time movie stars.

"What do you think?" Selina asked. "Do you want kids here? The kids in foster care have been through a lot. The last thing they need is to be scared in their own home."

I wouldn't scare a child, Bruce said.

"Good!" Selina said. "So would you be okay with kids living here along with me?"

The ghost looked at her, then nodded slowly. Alright.

"Great, thank you!" Selina said. "Let me know if there's anything you'd like in return."


Selina got the first call about renting the manor for a wedding only a few days after the website went live. She'd sent information to all the upscale event planners whose information she could get ahold of, but still, she hadn't expected a booking so soon.

She was definitely charging them on a higher scale for "premium service" plus an asshole tax on top, she decided, halfway into a long conversation with the wedding planner that could have been an email. The client was one of the top socialites in Gotham, one of those Rademakers, and he was marrying one of the partners at one of the top corporate law firms in Gotham. They could afford it. And whether or not they were assholes, their planner definitely was. No, she was not going to rent out the family wing including her own bedroom just because the bride wanted the full "Wayne Manor experience." No, she didn't care how much the happy couple was willing to pay. They could rent out the public wings of the house for as long as they wanted; she'd even turn one of the sitting rooms into a bedroom for a week if they paid enough, but that was as far as she was willing to go.

Once that call was over she checked her missed calls. A phone call had come in while she was talking with the planner, and she'd assumed it was spam, but they'd left a voicemail. (She should have used it as an excuse to end the call early even if it was spam.)

She pushed play. "Hi, Selina, this is Jessica from Social Services, please give me a call as soon as you get this message."

Ominous, Selina thought. What was the problem? Had they managed to find out about her robberies? Unlikely, she didn't have a criminal record anywhere that she knew of, but she supposed it was possible. She hit the call button.

Jessica answered almost immediately. "Selina! Thank you for calling back so quickly."

"Is something wrong with my application?" She'd started the process back when she was still looking for houses to buy, because getting certified could take up to a year.

"No, everything's going fine, we just got your background check back and everything looks great," Jessica said.

Selina held back a sigh of relief. To the best of her knowledge, she'd never been a suspect for any of the thefts she'd committed, but she'd still been worried.

"Now, this is a bit of a short notice," Jessica continued, "and I know you haven't done the certification class yet, but we're in a bit of a bind—it's a long story, but we have more kids right now than we have spaces to put them, I was wondering if you could take a twelve-year-old boy tonight? It doesn't have to be a permanent placement, even just taking him for the weekend would give us time to get some things straightened out on our end, and there's another session of the class starting up next month, you can take it then? It's not ideal, I know, especially because you don't have any previous parenting experience, but frankly I'm running out of other options."

"I had a teenager living with me for a few years, a while back, because she didn't have anyplace else to go," Selina said. "I've never spent much time around twelve-year-olds."

"He's a really good kid," Jessica said. "Quiet. His parents just died."

"Poor kid," Selina said. She bit her lip. The idea of having a traumatized middle-schooler dropped on her without even having had the class yet was daunting, but … she'd kept Holly alive and together when she was much younger and could barely keep herself together. And Holly had turned out okay. "I haven't had the home inspection yet," she said.

There was a pause. "My records say you have?"

"Nope," Selina said. "Just moved into a new place, I've barely gotten my stuff unpacked, much less childproofed the place. There are two bedrooms set up besides my own, but I haven't even looked at the checklist yet. I don't have anything for a middle-schooler, but I have a tablet and a television and an eight acre lot."

Another pause. "I'm sorry how big is your new place?"

"It's Wayne Manor," Selina said. "I'm using the two public wings of the place as an event center, and living in the family wing."

"Selina," Jessica said slowly, "you are aware that children—especially children who have been through a lot—aren't always easy on their surroundings?"

"Holly—the teen who lived with me for a while—once put her fist through a door when she was angry," Selina said. Well, angry and going through withdrawal. "I like the character of the place, but I don't want to live in a museum. The internal doors to the public area can be locked, and all the old furniture and antiques in the part of the house I'm using have been put in the attic. I'm not worried about that. The house is safe, up to code, and spacious. I'm fine with taking the kid if you're okay with it."

"All right," Jessica said, "I can do an inspection when I get there and as long as there isn't anything too bad, we can give you time to get things fixed."

"Okay," Selina said, "tell me about him. What's his name?" She grabbed the pad she'd been using, ripped off the sheets with the notes for the wedding, setting them aside.

"His name is Dick Grayson," Jessica said. "Like I said, he's twelve. He and his parents were The Flying Graysons, one of the acts with Haly's Circus. Something happened with the rigging and it broke and they died. He was in the ring at the time, thank God he wasn't in the air with them when it happened, but he saw the whole thing."

"Poor kid," Selina said with a sigh. She'd heard worse stories, but it didn't have to be the Worst Thing Ever to be pretty horrible.

"Yeah. It's hard to tell what he's like, normally; he's swinging between grief and anger, and he's sure someone sabotaged the rigging. The police have already taken his statement, who knows if they'll find anything."

"When was the accident?"

"Last night."

Selina stared at the phone. So, she wasn't just getting a grieving and angry kid, she was getting one whose whole world had collapsed the night before. "Okay," she said, unable to think of anything else to say.

"Just … give him space, but be there for him if he wants to talk," Jessica said.

"Right," Selina said, as if that wasn't contradictory.

"He was homeschooled, obviously, so we're not sure what grade he should be in, we'll sort that out with our Educational Coordinators next week."

"Is there going to be a funeral?" Selina asked.

"Not that I know of," Jessica said. "Maybe the circus? I'll give you their phone number, I think they're still in town."

"Thank you," Selina said, writing down the number.

"Oh, and he's Romani," Jessica said. "Commonly called gypsies? Which I did not know was a slur, about like the 'n-word.' I just want to make sure you know that so you don't make the same mistake."

"I did not know that, good to know," Selina said. Traumatized, grieving, and from an ethnic group she knew nothing about. This was not going to be easy.

There were a few more details to hash out, but soon enough the call was over and Selina was left staring blankly at the wall.

She was going to have a kid in just under an hour, depending on traffic.

She'd thought she'd have more warning.

Oh, God, she'd thought she'd have time to get to know the ghost better and make sure she could trust him to play nice with the kids!

"Bruce?" she called. "Bruce, are you here?" She listened, and felt the faintest whispering. Oh, right. He'd be easier to see in the dark. She closed the curtains and turned off the lights. "Bruce, I'd like to talk." She could go down to the butler's apartments, the one place she'd seen him, but she might as well try calling him from here first.

What is it? The voice seemed to come from all the corners of the room. Selina turned, squinting into the gloom, until she spotted the faint outline of a man standing behind her desk.

"You remember I said I was planning on taking in children who needed a home?"

Yes.

"A little boy, twelve years old, will be coming to stay with us in about an hour. The social worker who's bringing him will want to see the place to make sure it's safe for a child, and when she's gone I'll introduce the two of you." She wasn't sure what a social worker would think about placing a kid in a haunted house. Better safe than sorry.

What happened to his parents? Bruce's voice was soft, gentle. It was a good sign.

"They died, just yesterday," Selina said. "Richard—that's his name, Richard Grayson—saw it."

Bruce didn't say anything, but something about his shape seemed to ripple.


Richard was quiet and withdrawn, when he arrived with Jessica. He was perfectly polite when he spoke, but didn't say much, and his shoulders were hunched with pain. He only met her eyes briefly, when Jessica introduced them, and trailed Jessica over the house while she inspected it. In less time than Selina had expected she had a list of things that needed to be fixed within the next week if Richard was going to stay, and then there was nothing to do but sign the paperwork.

Once Jessica had left, Selina stared at Richard, at a loss for what to say. Richard stared at the floor.

The ghost, that was right! She needed to introduce him to Bruce. That would fill some time. Also, she needed to start thinking about dinner. "What sorts of things do you like to eat?" she asked.

"Lots of things," Richard said.

"Good! Anything in particular?" She was expecting him to say 'pizza' or 'hot dogs'.

He thought for a minute. "Goulash," he said.

"Would you like that for dinner tonight?"

He shrugged.

"Okay," Selina said. "I have to make a phone call, and you need to settle into your room, and then how about I introduce you to the ghost?"

"Ghost?" He perked up at that. "You have a ghost in the house?"

Selina nodded, pleased to have guessed right. She figured there was a 50/50 chance he'd be intrigued, and not scared. "We do! His name is Bruce. He won't hurt you."

"Can we meet him now?" Richard asked.

"After you've unpacked, and I've made my phone call," Selina said.

"Okay!" Richard ran off.

Selina blew out a breath and pulled out her cell phone to text Holly. Got a minute to call? She texted. This was news she didn't want to break over a text.

Her phone rang immediately; Holly must not be working today. "What's up?" Holly asked.

"Social services just dropped off a kid."

There was silence for a bit. "Already?" Holly said. "Doesn't it usually take longer than that for the wheels of social services to grind on?"

"Apparently it's an emergency and they didn't have any place else to put him," Selina said. "His parents died yesterday."

"Oh, poor kid," Holly said.

"Yeah," Selina said. "Listen, the house wasn't quite ready, so could you pick up a few things for me? And dinner? I'll pay you back."

"Sure, Holly said. "What do you need?"

When that was done, she went to introduce Richard to Bruce. The bedroom door was open, so she poked her head in.

Richard was sitting on top of the dresser, staring at nothing. He was hunched over, arms wrapped around his legs, and Selina's heart ached.

"Hey," she said, "can I give you a hug?"

He shrugged, not looking at her.

"Can I rub your back?"

"I guess."

Selina crossed the room to him and put her hand on his back, rubbing gently, trying to be comforting.

After a few minutes Richard sniffled a little. "You said there was a ghost?"

"Yes," Selina said. "His name is Bruce Wayne, and he was the last Wayne, and he died in 1941. He's hard to see, and it's easier when it's dark. I'll close the curtain, if you turn off the lights?"

Richard nodded, and hopped off the dresser.

Once the room was dark, Selina called for Bruce. "Bruce? You here? Richard wants to meet you."

I'm here, Bruce said. I'm always here.

"Woah, cool!" Richard said.

Selina turned to see what he was looking at, and found Bruce by the door. Was it her imagination, or did he seem more solid? Perhaps he'd been out of practice at being seen, when she first arrived. "Bruce, this is Richard John Grayson, my foster child. Richard, this is Bruce Wayne."

"Call me Dick." Richard's—Dick's—voice was the most animated he'd been since he arrived. "What's it like being dead?"

Selina winced, hoping Bruce didn't take that the wrong way.

Lonely, Bruce said.

Dick's face fell. "Oh."

Selina wondered if he was thinking of his parents.

No one's lived here since Alfred died. I've been alone.

"Alfred?" Dick asked. "Who's that?"

Alfred Pennyworth, the butler, Bruce said. He took care of me after my parents died.

"Your parents died, too?" Dick said. "Mine died."

I was eight, Bruce said. They were murdered, shot by a mugger in an alley after a night at the opera. Die Fledermaus. I was there. I was too scared to call for help.

"My parents were murdered too," Dick said somberly. "Someone messed with the equipment, and it broke, and they fell."

I'm sorry.

"Me, too," Dick said.


"Well, having Richard here does make it feel a little cozier," Holly said as she dumped the bag with the supplies by the door and handed the takeout to Selina. "But you'd have to have, like, two dozen people living here at least to not be rattling around in it."

"You're welcome to move in, if you like," Selina said. "You could have the whole second floor to yourself. Or the basement, if you wanted to be near the kitchens."

"Just what every 20-something wants," Holly said, rolling her eyes. "To move out of the city to the suburbs, into their mom's house."

"She's your mom?" Dick asked, squinting between the two of them.

"Sort of," Holly said. "I don't really have a family, so Selina took me in and took care of me. Nothing so official as foster care, but she was cool, and it was good for me. She'll take care of you, kid, she's one of the good ones."

"Thank you," Selina said, touched. She lifted up the takeout bag. "Let's eat before the food gets cold, shall we?"

Dick didn't say much during dinner, just picked morosely at his food. Selina wasn't surprised; it had been a hard few days for him, he had to be tired and sad and scared. She and Holly chatted about the house and the event center business and how things were going with Holly's new job.

After dinner, Holly took off, Dick went to his room, and Selina tried to organize her scattered thoughts. There was so much to do! She sat down and started two lists, one for things Dick and Social Services would need, and one for the event center business and the house. She had a few ideas for heists in the back of her mind—those always started percolating when she was stressed—but those could wait until she had the more immediate needs taken care of.

For Dick, she'd need to contact the circus. Were they still in town? Was there going to be a funeral? Did they have any more of his family's things than Dick had come with? There had to have been more things than just the suitcase and backpack he'd arrived with. On the Social Services list, she'd need to draw up an evacuation plan for the Manor, and have a fire drill. The bathroom she and Dick were sharing needed locks on both doors, so they could each have privacy when they used it. Social Services would see to his educational placement, but maybe she should check and see if there was a Romani cultural organization in the city Dick could join, to stay connected with his culture. (There had to be one; this was Gotham, after all, they had everything and everyone.) And there needed to be some way to escape from the second floor without using interior stairs. (Yes, even though nobody was currently living up there, Jessica had said.)

A breeze ran through the room and the lights flickered. Selina looked up from her notepad. "Bruce? That you?"

What is the device that Holly brought?

"I'm sorry?"

Holly brought dinner, a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher, and one other thing. What is it?

Selina sat back in her chair. "You looked into the bags?" The only thing they'd unpacked was dinner. The rest were sitting by the door.

I didn't have to. I know everything that is brought inside this house. The ghost paused. I try not to see the things in your drawers. He sounded embarrassed.

"Good to know," Selina said faintly. It wasn't like she'd been planning to bring loot back here before she fenced it, not with a kid living with her, but still. She hadn't gone this long as a thief without getting caught by being careless. You had to do your research ahead of time, and this was something it would have been good to know before she bought the place.

She got up and went out to the side door that was the main entrance to this wing of the house. She dug through the bag and pulled out the cell phone. It was a basic model, pay as you go, no frills. "Is this what you were asking about?"

Yes.

"It's a cell phone," Selina said, "a communications device. Like a radio that connects to the telephone network. This is a very basic one, but this way if Dick is playing out in the woods on the back part of the property, I can call him if I need to talk to him without having to search the whole place."

That's amazing. So that's what you were talking into, earlier. It's very small, for a radio.

"Compared to radios in your day, certainly," Selina said. They talked for a while about technological changes in the last hundred years, before Selina went back to her lists. It might be her imagination, but she thought he was getting a little easier to see. She'd even been able to see a faint outline of him with the lights on.


It took a couple of weeks for Dick to get evaluated educationally so he could be enrolled in school; by that time, the placement had ceased to be 'temporary' and Selina had started the required classes. Dick got his own TransitCard and took the bus to school every morning, and twice a week took the subway from school to his gymnastics program. He was still very quiet, but was beginning to come out of his shell, and Selina could see the first glimmers of the cheerful boy he'd been before his parents' death.


The bed was shaking. Earthquake? Selina wondered muzzily, half awake. No, just Bruce. She pulled a pillow over her head. "Bruce, stop it," she mumbled. "The cats are bad enough, not you too."

The pillow got yanked away. Dick is crying.

"Hmm?" This was bad, but she wasn't quite awake yet and couldn't think what to do about it.

DICK IS CRYING! The covers were yanked back.

"Oh," Selina said, yawning. Dick. Right. Crying in the middle of the night, could probably use some comfort. "Thanks."

She stumbled out of bed, grabbed her bathrobe from the back of the door, and knocked on Dick's door. "Dick, can I come in?"

No answer. She turned to Bruce. He's awake and miserable and trying to hide his tears.

Selina sighed and turned back to the door. "It's okay to cry; I just wondered if you wanted a hug or a backrub or maybe a lullaby or a cuddle. You can tell me to go away, if you want, but I would like to come in."

"You can come in," Dick said, barely audible through the thick hardwood door.

Selina opened the door and trudged in, settling herself on the bed next to Dick. "Wanna talk about it?" she asked.

"No," Dick said.

"Can I give you a hug?"

"Yes." Dick's voice hitched.

Selina wrapped her arms around him, and he curled around her, burying his face in her body. Selina sighed. "I'm so sorry, kiddo," she said. She leaned back against the headboard. There wasn't really anything else to say.

A low, eerie sound rose around them, and it took a few minutes to recognize "All The Pretty Little Horses." Bruce was humming a lullaby for Dick.

Her midsection was getting wet; Dick was crying, but he wasn't making any noise. "It's okay to cry," she said, rubbing his back.

She closed her eyes, listening to Bruce hum.

She wasn't sure which one of them fell asleep first.


Selina was deep in an argument with the Rademaker event planner when it occurred to her that she hadn't heard anything from Dick lately. The TV wasn't on in the living room next door, she hadn't heard him moving around in a while, and he hadn't said he was going to play outside, which he was usually pretty good about doing.

Still, she couldn't go find him until she was done with the phone call; they were trying to nickel and dime her, claiming poverty when the Rademakers owned half of the Bronx. If they wanted the rehearsal dinner and the reception both served on the Authentic Wayne Family China And Silverware, they were going to have to pay for the privilege. Not least because the silver was in dire need of polishing before it was usable, and she and Dick certainly weren't going to be the ones doing it, and hiring someone to do it right was going to cost a bundle.

Once she'd gotten the planner to agree to her fee scale, she texted Dick. Where are you?

In the gym, he texted back.

The gym? Dick wasn't allowed to do gymnastics moves (or circus moves) without her there to supervise. She headed down that way.

The gym was technically part of the family wing, though it was at the back and semi-detached from the main building. Selina wasn't sure what the room had originally been; Bruce had said he'd outfitted it in the 1930s.

When she got there, Dick was using the weight bench. Bruce was there giving him advice. Selina waited until Dick had the weight back on the bar before announcing her presence.

"Selina! Did you see how strong I am?" Dick said. "I can bench press a hundred pounds!"

"That is strong," Selina said. "Bruce, if he'd dropped that, could you have caught it?"

Yes.

"Could you have caught it for sure?" She stared at him. "You're getting better with board game pieces, but you still can't move them reliably and precisely. Throw them across the room, yes. Move them exactly where you want them, no. I ask again. Could you have caught it for sure?"

Bruce fidgeted. Probably.

Selina shook her head. "Probably isn't good enough, Bruce."

"I wouldn't drop it," Dick objected.

"Even pros drop things sometimes, it happens," Selina said. "Did your parents ever make mistakes when on the trapeze?"

"Not very often," Dick said.

"Because they were really good," Selina said. "But nobody's perfect. When you're lifting something above your head that could hurt you badly if you dropped it, I want to be here to spot you."

Dick heaved a sigh. "Okay."

"And also, have you talked to your gymnastics coach about weightlifting? What does he say?"

"He says I should be doing pushups and sit-ups and pull-ups, instead," Dick said. "And not worry about weights until I'm older."

"Then maybe you should listen to him," Selina said.

"But sit-ups are boring!" Dick said.

"Too bad," Selina said. "I want to make sure you grow up big and strong and healthy, and part of that is not hurting yourself now when you're young. Now, do you want to do some tumbling passes now that I'm here?"

Dick perked up, as she knew he would.


The day of the Rademaker wedding was clear and blue-skyed; they'd gotten some good photographs outdoors as well as indoors, before the ceremony started. The foliage around the house was a perfect mix of golds and oranges. Selina still didn't know whether the happy couple were jerks or not because she'd never even met them, but by God she loathed their planner.

But she didn't show it, because she wanted the planner to recommend Wayne Manor to other clients. She'd smiled at people she hated more, when she was first digging her way off the streets, Holly in tow.

The bride wore a gown reminiscent of Princess Kate's, and the groom wore a tuxedo, and half the female guests had those weird tiny 'hats' that were more like art pieces pinned to your hair than anything else.

Selina stood in the corner of the reception with a glass of very good champagne in her hand, compensation for having to deal with the planner to fix all the minor emergencies that had cropped up over the course of the day. She was still on call, but at this point all the major parts were over with, so she couldn't imagine what other problem there might be.

She amused herself by watching the couples dance by and cataloguing the worth of their jewelry and watches, and how much money she could make by wandering through the room with sticky fingers.

Not that she would, of course; she didn't want to spoil her perfect clean record with anything so obviously tied to her, but it was an entertaining way of passing the time until the party was over and it was time for the cleanup.

She was ready to fall into bed and snuggle with her cats when it was all over, but it was worth it; besides the money, she had the rights to use a few of the photographs in her marketing, and testimonials about how wonderful Wayne Manor was as a venue from some of Gotham's first families.

Only the most urgent bits of cleanup were to be done that night; the next day, the janitorial service the Manor had used for decades would come in and clean the public wings from top to bottom. That, at least, Selina didn't need to personally supervise; they'd been doing it forever, they knew what to do. Once the last of the guests and the caterers and servers were out the door, she locked up and wandered back to the family wing, shoes in hand.

Dick had been quiet all day, just like she'd asked him to; twelve was more than old enough to entertain himself. She'd asked him if he had friends he'd like to spend the day with, but he'd said no, he was okay to spend the whole day alone with Bruce.

But still, she'd expected him to be awake and waiting for her when she got back. It wasn't that late; he shouldn't be in bed yet.

His light was out, but she knocked on the door anyway, just to check. He could have called her, or come and got her, if he was sick.

No answer. Maybe he was asleep already? She stuck her head in just to check. Sure enough, there was an unmoving shape in the bed that had to be Dick.

Or did it? There was something weird about it. She squinted at it. That little shit! She flipped on the light. Sure enough, it was only pillows, not a person. Had he run away?

She panicked for a second, wondering who to call and where to look, before realizing the obvious.

"BRUCE!" she roared. "Where the hell is Dick! Why didn't you come get me?"

The curtains shivered. He's gone out to look for his parents' killer.

"What the hell?" Selina said, flopping down on the bed to stare at the ghost. "Where the hell did he get a stupid idea like that?"

It's not stupid. The police have done nothing. Someone has to find them, or they'll do it again.

"And you think that someone is a twelve year old child?" Selina said. "Alone on the streets of Gotham? What could he possibly find that the police haven't, and even if he did, what could he possibly do with that information?"

He's a bit young, but—

"A bit young?" Selina yelped. "A bit young? He's twelve! He's out alone on Gotham streets looking for a murderer! The best case scenario is that he doesn't find anything and comes back discouraged. The medium case scenario is that someone else finds him and scoops him up for human trafficking. It'd be hell, but at least he'd be alive. The worst case scenario is that he finds his parents' murderers, and they finish the job by killing him too! He is a foster kid, Bruce, nobody but you and me will care if his body winds up in the river. The only consequences will be me getting kicked out of the foster care program. The actual bad guys will not get punished. And even if they did, it wouldn't bring any of their victims back!" A litany of every terrible thing she'd seen while walking the streets poured through her brain.

But it would prevent future victims.

"Are you in such a rush to prevent those hypothetical future victims, that you'd sacrifice Dick's life to protect them?" Selina asked.

Bruce flinched.

Selina couldn't deal with him now. She was too angry. Too scared. She dug out her phone and called Dick's. It rang from inside the room. A bit of digging found it connected to the charger, on the floor between the bed and the nightstand. "Of course he left behind his only way of calling for help," Selina said bitterly. "Do you know where he went?"

Not fully, tonight is just a scouting mission, Bruce said. It's been eighty years since I knew where the Mob hangs out. Their deaths were almost certainly punishment for not paying a protection racket. Finding the people who run such rackets is the first step in finding which one it was.

Selina narrowed her eyes. "So, eighty years ago, were you in the mob? Is that how you knew where they hung out?" It didn't make sense. The Waynes had had so much money, they wouldn't have needed the mob. Wrong social set.

No! Bruce said firmly.

"Then how did you know them?"

Bruce hesitated.

"If you told Dick, you need to tell me too," Selina said. "If it has anything to do with why he's out there or how we can find him, I need to know."

I was the Batman, Bruce said at last. I went out to fight crime and solve mysteries and clean up the corruption in the city.

Batman. An urban legend, of a ghost or metahuman or magical creature in the shape of a bat who beat up bad people. She'd always thought the stories were ridiculous; it was hard to connect them with Bruce, he of the old-time-Hollywood accent and the tailored suits. "And you told Dick this?" Selina asked.

Yes.

"Did you encourage him to go out?"

No. Bruce hesitated. I told him he should wait until he was older, as I did.

"But when he went out, as a twelve year old, by himself, you didn't come get me so I could stop him."

No.

"Bruce," Selina asked carefully, "how did you die?"

He disappeared, and the lights flickered; the curtains rattled and the door slammed shut. "Bruce, I need to know. Please don't throw a temper tantrum."

It took a bit of coaxing, but eventually he told her. I was investigating a mob hit, he said, not physically manifesting. They got the jump on me, beat me up badly. I got away, drove back here, but … there was nothing Alfred could do. He called an ambulance. There was nothing they could do, either.

"You died trying to clean up the mob," Selina said. "And then you stood by while a child decided to go out and do the same thing."

I'm sorry.

He sounded sincere, but how could she tell? "Have you told him how you died?"

No.

"Will you do so? I think he needs to know."

He didn't respond. Selina thought for a bit. Alfred called the ambulance, he'd said. Alfred, who'd raised him. Alfred, who'd lived in the house with the ghost of the man he'd raised from childhood. Alfred, whose death Bruce still mourned and whose rooms he protected while she didn't even know which room Bruce himself had used. "What do you think Alfred would want? Would he want Dick out trying to take on the mob?"

No, Bruce said, so quietly she could barely hear him. Alfred didn't want me to go out even as an adult.

Selina nodded. "Of course he wanted you to be safe. Of course he would want Dick to be safe. And you can't go out and fight crime and be safe. Not even as an adult, as you know. Will you tell Dick how you died?"

Very well.

Selina nodded. "And if he tries to sneak out again, will you call for me?"

Yes.

"And you have no idea where he's gone?"

Not enough of an idea to help you find him, Bruce said. You're better off waiting for him here. He was planning to come back on the last bus.

Selina glanced at the bedside clock. 10:35. It was a Saturday; the last bus would come at, what, about one in the morning? She grabbed her phone and brought up the GTA app. Yes, 12:55. Two and a half hours to wait.

She called Harley. The call went to voicemail. She called Harley a second time.

At last Harley picked up. "I swear to fuck you better have a good reason for calling me this late, I got an early shift in the morning." Her Narrows accent was deeper, as it always was when she was out of it.

"Sorry to wake you up, but I just found out Dick's been listening to stories about Batman, and decided to go out tonight to track down the mobsters who murdered his parents," Selina said.

"Fuck, shit, yeah, okay, I'm awake," Harley said. "Is he planning to come back?"

"On the last bus, apparently," Selina said. "Tonight was just a scouting trip to see what he could find. He left his cell phone behind, so I can't call him or track him—and he can't call for help if he needs it. Harley, what do I do?"

"You get that I am not a child psychologist, right?" Harley said. "I specialize in violent criminals who have mental illnesses."

"The parenting classes have covered things like 'what to do if they're sneaking out to buy drugs' and 'what to do if they are deliberately breaking house rules' and 'what are the developmental stages and what can you expect at different ages' but not, oddly enough, 'what to do if they've decided they want to be an urban legend and go out in the middle of the night to fight organized crime.'"

"Yeah, okay, I get that," Harley said. She was quiet for a bit. "First thing, wait for the bus. If he's on it, great. If he doesn't come back by the last bus, call 911 and report him missing. Because he will be at that point, and the sooner he's reported missing, the better chance they'll have of finding him. Oh, have you searched the house?"

"No," Selina said. "Bruce says he's gone."

"Bruce," Harley said. "As in, the ghost in your basement?"

"He and Dick are friends," Selina said. "Bruce was the Batman, or so he says; that's how he died. Fighting crime. And he told Dick about fighting crime but not about the fact that he died doing it."

Harley hummed an incredulous noise. "Honey, you have got to get that boy some friends his own age. Preferably living ones."

"I know," Selina said. "He's friendly with some kids at school and at his gymnastics class, but when he's home he hangs out with Bruce a lot."

"And would Bruce know for sure he's not hiding somewhere in the house?"

"Bruce knows everything and everyone in the house at all times," Selina said. She'd tested him. "Hey Bruce," she said, "can you sense people and objects out on the grounds?"

Not as precisely as I can in the Manor, Bruce said, but I'd know Dick anywhere. He left when he said he was going to.

"Dick's not anywhere in the house and grounds, Bruce says," Selina repeated, just in case Harley couldn't hear him over the phone.

"Okay. So, assuming he comes back when he said he would, here's what you do," Harley said. "Tonight, when he gets back, you tell him you love him and you were scared for him and you put him to bed. I dunno, are you allowed to lock him in his room?"

"Not without special permission," Selina said. "But Bruce says he'll tell me if Dick tries to sneak out again." The 'no locking them in without permission from social services' bit had sounded reasonable when it was explained; a bad foster parent might use that to control or abuse a child. And it was still reasonable, honestly, even if she would feel better knowing he couldn't sneak out again. She wasn't sure if she trusted Bruce.

"Okay," Harley says. "But you don't try to discipline him tonight, right? That's the big thing. You're both tired, you're scared, you're in a prime condition for a screaming fight that doesn't do no good for nobody, and believe me, I know screaming fights."

"Gotcha," Selina said. "And tomorrow?"

"Oh, no, you ain't done with tonight yet," Harley said. "Once the squirt's in bed to stay, you take a bubble bath or, like, cuddle with your kitties for half an hour. Meditate. Yoga. Whatever it takes to calm you down so you sleep good. In the morning, you wake up, you cuddle your kitties some more, you make a nice hearty breakfast for both of you so you don't have any physical distractions, and then you sit down and talk. And the first thing you do is listen. Make sure he knows you're paying attention to what he's saying, not what you think he's saying. Understand?"

"Active listening, yes," Selina said.

"Once he's had his say, then you have your say, and you explain to him why this was a batshit stupid thing to do, holy fuck."

"That I will have no problem with," Selina said grimly.

"Yeah, I figured," Harley said. "But try not to come down too hard on him, you don't wanna get him all turtled up and not listening, right?"

"Right."

"Uhuh. Then, together, you figure out what the consequences from this should be and what needs to change so it doesn't happen again."

"Right."

Harley yawned. "Okay. I think that's all I can tell you, hope he comes home soon, lemme know tomorrow how it goes."

"Thanks, Harley."


Selina was at the bus stop near the Manor's gates waiting when the last bus of the night stopped and Dick stepped out of it.

He was wearing one of his circus costumes with a mask. He had gone out to fight crime in a circus costume of bright colors, red and green and yellow. And he'd added a mask, as if that would prevent people from realizing whose costume he was wearing. Well, middle-schoolers were not known for their planning and forward thinking skills.

Dick saw her and his shoulders sagged.

"I should have brought a coat," she said. "Bruce didn't tell me you were running around Gotham in a leotard with no pants or coat."

"Are you going to yell at me?" Dick asked. "I'm not sorry! Someone needs to do something!" He crossed his arms, and was probably trying to look tough, but he only succeeded in looking small and cold.

"I was very scared for you, but we'll talk about it tomorrow," Selina said. "For now, it's past your bedtime."


Even with a long soak in the tub, some chamomile tea, and time playing with Otto and Isis, Selina found it hard to sleep that night. Visions of what might have been danced through her head, and when she finally fell asleep, old bad memories danced through her head, with Dick replacing Holly and the other girls.


They both woke up fairly late the next morning. Selina dragged herself out of bed and got dressed when she heard him rattling around in his room. She went and knocked on his door. "Hey," she said.

Dick opened the door, scowling, still in his pajamas. "I'm not sorry," he said.

Selina blinked. "Okay," she said. "Breakfast first." She turned and walked down the hall towards the stairs to the basement.

By the time Dick showed up in the kitchen, still scowling but dressed and with his hair combed, the Keurig was done with her coffee and she had scrambled eggs on the stove. Dick put some bread in the toaster and sat at the big prep table, still scowling. Selina cooked in silence, and when she was done, joined him at the table. She had no idea how to start the conversation, but Harley had said not to talk about it until they'd both slept and eaten and that at least gave her an excuse to postpone this until she figured out what to say.

"I'm not sorry, and I'm going to go back as soon as I can," Dick burst out.

He caught her just as she'd taken a big bite. She chewed quickly, but it seemed to take forever.

"My parents are dead and nobody cares and nobody's doing anything," Dick said. Apparently, keeping quiet was an effective way to get him to talk. More so than asking questions; half the time when she tried, she got monosyllables at best. But now, it all came spilling out: his fear, his frustration, his grief.

Selina listened attentively, made sympathetic noises where appropriate, and waited until he was done to say anything. "Some of the hardest things to deal with are times when the world isn't fair, when someone does a horrible thing and gets away with it."

"What would you know?" Dick said, tearing off a chunk of toast.

"I grew up on the streets of Gotham, kid," Selina said. "My parents were terrible, and then they died, and the place I got sent to after they died was as bad as they ever were, and so I ran away and ended up on the streets. There aren't many ways for a homeless teen to make money enough to live on, and all of them are bad. It was terrible, and a lot of people were awful, and nobody ever went to jail even when they really should have. Part of the reason I'm doing this is because of that. I can't fix what happened to me; nobody can. But I can provide a safe, stable, loving home for a few kids so they don't end up like I did. I got out, I made something of myself. Most kids in the position I was aren't so lucky. I want to change that, if I can."

"Oh," Dick said, hunching over his plate.

Selina wasn't quite sure how she could tell, but she thought Bruce was listening. It felt like he was looming in the corner, even if she couldn't see him or hear him. "Believe me, Dick, I know what it's like when nobody gives a shit about something evil. I wish you didn't have to know that too."

This time, when Selina stopped talking and ate her breakfast, Dick didn't say anything. But he did eat his own breakfast instead of picking at it.


After breakfast, Selina led them up to the living room and settled on the couch, Dick beside her. "So, Dick, what exactly were you trying to accomplish last night? And what will you be trying to accomplish on future excursions?"

"To find my parents' killer!" he exclaimed.

"I get that," Selina said. "How?"

"Well, Bruce said it was probably a protection racket run by the Mob," Dick said. "First, I have to find the Mob. Then I have to figure out which one of the Families it was. Then all I have to do is figure out which hitter it was, and take it to the police!"

It would have been charmingly ambitious and naïve, if he weren't trying to take apart the Mob as a twelve year old wearing a circus costume. "And then what?" Selina asked. "Do you know how to make sure your evidence is admissible in a court of law? Courts have special rules for what kinds of things they can and can't use, to make sure everything is fair and nobody can make things up."

"Oh," Dick said, slightly daunted. "Well, I can learn!"

"Maybe," Selina said. "But you're starting from scratch. What do you think you can learn that the police can't? They already know who all the Families are, where they tend to hang out, and who the major players are."

"Yeah, but they don't care."

"If they don't care, they may not care even if you hand them the evidence on a platter," Selina pointed out. "And also, some of them don't care because they're paid not to care. The families give them money to look the other way. If you went to one of the dirty cops with evidence, they'd try to shut you up. Tell the mob who you were and that you were trying to shut them down. What do you think they'd do to you then?"

"Kill me, maybe," Dick said, hunching down. "But it would be worth it, if I got the guy!"

"Do you think your mom and dad would think it worth it?" Selina asked. "Which do you think they would prefer: you dead but their deaths avenged, or you alive and happy, but their murderer never caught?"

"But how can I be happy when the guy who killed them is just … walking around somewhere?" Dick wailed.

Selina sat back and thought for a bit. "Bruce? You caught your parents' murderer, right?"

Yes.

"Did it make you happy?" Selina asked.

I—no, it didn't, Bruce said slowly. I felt satisfied. It was a relief. But I can't say that it made me happy.

"Did it fill the hole left by their deaths? Did it make your grief any easier to bear?"

No, of course not, Bruce said.

"What did?" Selina asked.

Time, Bruce said. And Alfred. As much as anyone could. It wasn't the same, and I would have given almost anything to have them back, but … I did learn to live with my grief eventually. And I never stopped missing them, or loving them, but things got better.

"Grief tears a hole in you," Selina said. "Sometimes people try to patch that hole with things like anger or work, or they try to paper it over and pretend it's not there. But the thing is, eventually that hole heals. It's not quick, and sometimes it hurts, and sometimes the hole gets bigger instead of smaller for a little bit. But it does heal, until eventually it is a scar and you are whole again. And it doesn't depend on vengeance, or justice, or punishing the one who hurt you, although sometimes that can help. Whether the killer gets caught or not, you will heal, Dick, and you will learn to be happy again."

"What if I don't want to be happy?"

"Do you think your parents would want you to be sad your whole life?" Selina asked. "You don't have to be happy now, and there's no timeline. But if you never healed, if you never let yourself be happy because your parents are dead … I think they'd be sad about that. I know I would."

She waited until he gave a little nod, and then went on. "Now, the other things is, I don't think you understand how dangerous what you did last night was. You went out, alone, in the middle of the night, looking for dangerous people."

"I was fine," Dick said, "I'm old enough to ride the bus and the subway by myself."

"But not old enough to take on the Mob by yourself," Selina said. "Bruce, please tell Dick the story of how you died."

Bruce did, with a little more detail than he'd given Selina the night before. Nothing gory, just … little things. Things that made the story a bit more real.

"But I was fine," Dick said when he was done.

"Yes," Selina said, "because you didn't find anything or anyone. If you had actually done what you set out to do, you wouldn't have accomplished anything. You'd have just gotten yourself killed. Bruce was an adult when he went out as Batman, with years of training and the best equipment money could buy. He still died. So could you. You survived because you were lucky and didn't know where to actually find what you were looking for. You cannot do that again, do you understand? I love you, and I want you to be safe. Okay?"

Dick nodded slowly.

"Promise me you won't go out like that again," Selina said.

"But what if—"

"Nope," Selina cut him off. "No what ifs. You are not going to go out looking for the person who killed your parents. Not at any time, day or night. Promise me."

He sighed heavily. "I promise."

"Now we need to talk about what the consequences of your little adventure are going to be," Selina said.

"I didn't get hurt," Dick said.

"I'm glad of that, believe me," Selina said. "There are other sorts of consequences, you know."

"I didn't break any rules," Dick said.

"That's because I didn't think I needed to make a rule about not going looking for the Mob in the middle of the night," Selina said. "I thought you would make smarter and better choices than that, but obviously I was wrong. So. Consequences. What do you think would be fair?"

"Some of the kids at school get their cell phone taken away when they're in trouble," Dick offered.

"Oh no," Selina said. "I almost had a heart attack last night when I realized you'd left it behind and not only could I not use it to call you or find you, you couldn't use it to call for help if you needed it. I'm thinking of having it surgically grafted to your arm so you can't ever leave it behind again. No, you're keeping your cell phone, pick something else."

Dick smiled a little at the image. "Um. I don't know? What do you think?"

Selina shrugged. "I've trusted you a lot, since you came here," she said. "Trusted you to wander alone outside when you felt like it, trusted you to get to school and gymnastics and other places by yourself, trusted you to take care of yourself without a babysitter while I'm working. And you used that trust to put yourself in danger. It's going to be a while before I can trust you like that again."

Dick gave her a horrified look. "You're not going to take me to school and stuff, are you?" he asked.

"I might, at least for a while," Selina said. "Bruce can keep an eye on you while you're at the Manor; he's promised to let me know if you ever try something like this again. But obviously, he can't keep an eye on you while you're not here. So I might go with you and pick you up and drop you off. Or, I might start calling school and your gymnastics coach to make sure you get where you're supposed to. I haven't decided yet. Not as a punishment, but just because I don't trust you very much right now."

"So, if that's not a punishment, are you going to do something else to punish me?" he asked.

Selina thought for a bit. "No. Like you said, you didn't actually break any rules. And besides, if you decided you wanted to go out looking for mobsters again, would punishing you for it make you think twice?"

"No," Dick said. "I'm really stubborn."

"There you go," Selina said. "Then why bother? I don't want to hurt you for the sake of hurting you. I want you to learn to do the right thing, and grow strong and good. If punishing you isn't going to make you do the right thing, there's no reason to do it."

"How long will you be checking up on me and taking me to school and stuff?" Dick asked.

"I don't know," Selina said. "Until I feel like I can trust you again. But it won't be forever, don't worry."

Dick made a face.

Selina couldn't think of anything more to say on the subject, and she was still really drained from last night. "Do you have any homework?"

"No," Dick said. "Bruce made me do it yesterday."

"Good for Bruce," Selina said. He did one thing right, at least. "Pam's coming over this afternoon to help us with some yardwork. What do you want to do until then? I would prefer something that kept you close."

Dick thought for a bit. "Play Sorry with Bruce?"

"Sounds good," Selina said. "Mind if I play too?"

"That's okay," Dick said.

Dick and Bruce set up the game, an old box from Bruce's teen years. It was simple to play, and she appreciated that. She could use something simple and easy right now. Dick was safe, he was here, and he wasn't going to do anything like that again. Hopefully. She set those worries aside. For now, all she needed to do was be here with him and Bruce, playing games.


Selina signed the last piece of paper with a flourish. She was officially a fully-licensed foster mom, and Dick was officially a permanent placement rather than an emergency temporary one. She handed the government copies to Jessica and put her copies in a file folder to take home with her.

"So, how's Dick doing?" Jessica asked as she filed the paperwork away. "He hasn't tried to sneak out again, has he?"

"Nope," Selena said. "I think I convinced him of what a bad idea it was. And he's talking more, which is good."

"Glad to hear it," Jessica said. "Now that you're fully licensed, how many kids were you thinking of taking?"

Selina laughed. "Well, not enough to fill up all the empty bedrooms, that's for sure!"

"You couldn't even if you wanted to," Jessica said. "Even with all teenagers, it would put you over the max adult/child ratio, unless you went the group home route and hired additional carers."

Selina made a face. "I don't think so. How about we take it one case at a time, see what works?"

"Okay," Jessica said. "In that case, I think I have your next kid. Dad's in prison, mom's in rehab—she's a good parent when she's sober and healthy and the dad's not around, so we'll definitely be working towards reunification. The kid is eight, has a bit of an attitude but his teachers love him. He's a good reader, likes to read above grade level."

"What's his name?" Selina asked.

Jessica handed her a folder. "Jason Peter Todd."

Selina flipped it open, skimming through the information. The kid had some problems, but nothing out of the ordinary given what he'd been through. "I'm sure he'll be a good addition to the family."